First up for her is a get-to-know-you lesson with DOC. While the majority of the feedback during our show jumping lesson was positive there was one very clear area that needed my attention. It came as no surprise
As with any training challenge my first step is to make a clear goal including the building blocks needed to get to that goal. Then it all comes down to being creative with how to implement exercises to work towards that goal and constantly assessing how those exercises are working. The key to success is knowing when to modify an exercise or to ask for more and especially knowing when to ask for less... Listen to your horse!
The goal is to make canter leads a non-issue for Delta. Here are the stages I have in mind:
- Maintaining the same canter lead throughout a jumping effort.
- Understand the aids to fix an incorrect lead on landing from a jump.
- Ask and achieve either lead when landing from a jump.
- Achieve flying changes.
Whether it takes a month or a year to achieve this goal is not something that I can control... My plan is to start by focusing on the first stage and to find exercises that help both to strengthen her and to help her to better think of what her feet should be doing. At some point in the near future I will add a photo but for now a description will have to do...
Canter cavaletti on a curve
Set-up: Use 4 standards and 4 poles and find a flat area suitable for a 20 meter circle. On the circle arrange the poles so that the end on the inner curve are set at 15 feet apart and the end on the outside of the curve are set at 24 feet. Arrange one standard to sit on the outside of each pole for use once it is time to make it more challenging.
Tips: As with any cavaletti exercise begin by simply walking through the poles and focus on keeping a consistent path regardless of the striding (since the striding is not set specifically for walking). This raises your awareness as to how the horse will respond... ask yourself: does she drift right or left, does she prefer to add or leave a step out, does she drop the contact and brace or look down and trip? If so you should address those areas and be able to keep a relaxed, balanced walk through the poles before trying to continue on with the exercise.
How to: I begin by starting with the right lead canter since that is the lead that Delta finds easier to maintain. Since she has a tendency to lose her lead more often when she has to make a big pushing effort I know that I want to keep her in a quiet and somewhat compact canter to start. I aim to canter through the poles on a track that keeps me towards the inner edge of the pole. I want to feel as though her canter never needs to change throughout the exercise so that she learns to hold her balance over her topline and simply lift her legs higher. Once I find a path that is a comfortable distance for her I will come around to a path that is a foot further out. Without increasing her speed I want the poles to challenge her to reach a little more and push a little harder in her canter. If she can hold that then I'll continue moving out on the circle, only about a foot at a time so this is where I really stay focused on my path, until I feel that she starts to struggle to maintain her balance. Then I'll repeat on the "harder" lead aiming to get the same results but if she struggles then I simply keep her on a comfortable path (where the distance is easy for her to achieve) and make a mental note of how it compared for future reference. Once she's consistent in that stage she gets a quick rest while we put the outer end of the middle 2 poles up into a jump cup (but be sure the standards have bottom holes that allow the rail to only be raised 18" or less). My focus is the same...and once she can canter through that without any change to the canter I'll add the first and last poles into the jump cups. If I can accomplish all of that within the first session then I'm well on my way.
Remember that any time you add an exercise that challenges the horse to use themselves in a new way you have to be sure not to over do it.. especially a canter exercise as they can get fatigued quickly. Always finish on a good note even if it means you need to take a step back...finishing at the walk is ok.
Benefits: * Increased strength and stability in the canter. * Excellent for helping with lengthening and shortening the canter stride while maintaining rhythm and balance. * Improves riders timing and eye for a distance. * Encourages riders to stay moving with and connected to the horse over a "jump".